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The Wire: Government to prioritise attracting overseas healthcare workers

7:53am on 2 August 2022

Interview by Emily Talbot, adapted by David Liwei Shi and Jessica Hopkins 

Listen to the full interview

The New Zealand government has rolled out a series of initiatives to help combat health worker shortages and ease pressure on the New Zealand health system.

This comes as New Zealand experiences "the worst flu season in living memory" along with a second Omicron wave. 

Health Minister Andrew says it will now be easier for overseas staff to get registered in New Zealand, with the government funding up to $10,000 for international nurses to pay their registration fees.

Other initiatives include a “one-stop-shop” for international recruitment within Health New Zealand and a streamlined system for international health workers to get their qualifications recognised in New Zealand.

Little says these changes will remove many of the barriers that overseas health workers face coming to New Zealand. 

“We’ve changed immigration rules to make New Zealand one of the easiest places in the world for health workers to come to,” said Little.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation President Anne Daniels says they welcome funding for non-practicing nurses who want to return to nursing but need to be re-registered. 

But Daniels says that the package delivered by Andrew Little is too reliant on attracting nurses from overseas.

"This is part of the problem that has put us here today. We have been too reliant on overseas nurses as opposed to growing our own workforce." 

Daniels says current pay and conditions for nurses already in the workforce are not competitive with other countries like Australia. 

"Back pay was promised and it hasn't been delivered. Nurses are not safe in their workplaces. Their workloads are too high and we have to change that to make it more attractive for people coming into the profession." 

The popular medical TV show, Shortland Street will also be promoting a career in nursing as part of a government initiative. 

"I can see how they would think it would attract younger people in the profession. But the show tends to be about the relationships that happen outside of work. The realities of nursing are absolutely not reflected in the program." 

Daniels says that while being a nurse has been very rewarding for her, equitable pay conditions would make a career in nursing more attractive. 

"NZNO has gone on record that we want nursing students to be paid. This will reduce the barriers stopping potential nurses from completing their course and going into nursing." 

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.